Kathleen Supove’s Three-Day Stand in Tribeca: A Must-See for Fans of Edgy Piano Music
Kathleen Supove, the go-to pianist of the New York underground, debuted her most recent, hauntingly surreal theme program, modestly titled Digital Debussy, last night at the Flea Theatre in Tribeca. It continues with shows tonight, April 26 at 7 PM and two on Saturday the 27th at 3 and 7 PM. If cutting-edge piano music is on your agenda, don’t miss this. Supove, who doesn’t shy away from a challenge, put herself in the position of having to play along to a collage of keyboards mixed with found sounds of storms and god knows what else, and she was up for it, even though that meant taking cues not from melody but from stormclouds and seemingly random, possibly backward-masked sonic markers.
And she nailed it! Supove – who is always great fun to watch, opening the show decked out all in white with a white piano along with watery film projections – began by negotiating her way through the rain-drenched, hauntingly immersive, deceptively minimalist funhouse mirrors of Joan LaBarbara’s Storefront Diva: A Dreamscape. Inspired by Joseph Cornell’s dreams of Debussy playing in a storefront window, it was like being transported to a sonic Cornell box. Supove chose her spots As much fun as this was to witness, it would be fantastic to hear on album (reputedly there’s a DVD in the works). There’s a visual aspect that gives Supove – a very physical performer, albeit a lithe, graceful one – lots of room for balletesque movement. Throughout LaBarbara’s otherworldly, Lynchian resonances, Supove played Lynch Girl at the keys to the hilt, exchanging melodies between hands whether or not she was playing them. The surrealism of it all hit hard, a hurricane tableau as seen from a safe interior, resonantly comforting despite itself.
Annie Gosfield’s Shattered Apparitions of the Western Wind – like all of the pieces on the program, a new commision from Supove, this being an update on Debussy’s What the West Wind Saw – seemingly illustrated a triumphant human spirit in the face of cruel distractions. Ostensibly, the sound collage that Supove played against reimagined Debussy fragments along with samples from Hurricane Sandy. Aside from a gusty, swooping interlude late in the piece, it was hard to tell what was organic and what was machine-made. Perhaps that was intentional. Throughout it all, beauty triumphed amid chaos, Beatles quotes and endless, hypnotic circularity.
Up to this point, Supove hadn’t been able to indulge in much humor (give her an inch and she”ll take a mile or two: she can be hilarious). So it was fun to watch her tackle her longtime Dr. Nerve art-rock bandmate Nick Didkovsky’s Triumph of Innocence, a sarcastic title if there ever was one. Supove played hypnotic, distantly Indian-tinged cascades and circular motives while narrating fragments from a Bette Page memoir, actress Georgia Ximenes Lifsher acting out the stripper’s deadpan, seemingly innocent recollections of Estes Kefauver’s foreshadowing of the Meese Commission, Page’s fondness for her photographer/pimp Irving Klaw (what a name, huh?) and her terror of growing old and losing her looks. As it crescendoed, Supove’s breathless narration channeled an increasing violence to match her rapidfire work on the keys. It was enough to make you forget that there was, at least ostensibly, a stripper onstage, no mean feat. Tickets for this explosive and entertaining show are still available as of now. Supove also books the intriguing, vastly cross-pollinational annual Music with a View series here: watch this space for a series of June concerts that promise to match this kind of excitement.
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